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UTCN students help shape how Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind energy project will be seen by public

Students from UTC Norfolk have worked with energy company Vattenfall and 3D-visualisation firm 3DW to inform the development of software that will be used to show what the proposed Norfolk Vanguard offshore wind farm project will look like.

This unique opportunity was the culmination of a 6-week core project by the students – also supported by Seajacks, RG Carter, Statoil, Gardline and the Wind Energy Museum – which saw the Year 12 students learning about all aspects of wind turbine technology, planning and development.

Core projects at UTC Norfolk involve employers setting students challenges which relate to the types of scenarios they will face in their future careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) –related industries and occupations.

For this core project, the students had to design a wind farm for a rural location using the 3D software that has been pioneered by 3DW. 

The project required them to put into practice a wide range of learning from across different subjects.  This included the science and mathematics involved in decisions about the type and quantity of wind turbines needed to power 6,000 homes, to looking at the human and physical geography in determining optimum locations for the wind turbines, to the wider economics, politics and social considerations in any large scale planning application. 

The project also gave the students a chance to develop their employability skills through working alongside employers and giving formal presentations to explain and justify their proposals.

Having familiarised themselves with creating virtual wind farms using the 3D software, the students were then asked by Vattenfall and 3DW to provide detailed feedback on how this software could be improved in its current phase of development - simulations of offshore wind farms. 

The students provided a wide range of detailed, technical and practical suggestions for how the 3D software could be modified.  This feedback will help shape how future visualisations of offshore wind farms by 3DW will look, including the major Norfolk Vanguard project.

Currently at the planning stage, Vattenfall’s Norfolk Vanguard project would be one of the UK’s largest offshore wind farms.  The 1.8 Gigawatt development area would be located more than 47km from the Norfolk Coast – not visible from the shore - and would meet the electricity demand of around 1.3 million UK households.

Pavel Reed, a Year 12 student at UTC Norfolk who participated in the core project, said:

“With real life problems there’s a lot you have to think about, a lot of different constraints - rivers, footpaths, also the viewpoints of local people and how a wind farm development would affect them, in terms of the economy, jobs, as well as things like sustainability and how much maintenance turbines would need to keep on working.  I enjoyed it. It was a challenge and a really good learning experience.”  

Fellow UTC Norfolk student Nathan King, added:

“It was interesting transitioning from working with Vattenfall about wind farms to working with 3DW about using their software to relate to it.  It’s really exciting to think that this technology is going to be used to design wind farms in the future and I might have actually helped out with an idea I’ve had and written down.  I’m glad we’ve had that opportunity.”

Andy Dennison, Managing Director, 3DW, commented:

“We’ve had a tremendous volume of feedback from the students and real quality as well.  The students have really engaged with everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve clearly put a lot of thought into their feedback, which they’ve articulated really well.  We’ve got a lot of really interesting ideas to take back and use in the development of an offshore version of this software.”

Susan Falch-Lovesey, Vattenfall’s Local Liaison Officer, Norfolk Vanguard and Boreas, added:

“Vattenfall are delighted to have collaborated with UTC Norfolk on this core project and can appreciate the important role of industry in enabling such project-based learning. It is inspiring to see the innovative solutions that the students have created and the excellent teamwork that has developed. 

“Vattenfall and the offshore wind industry have a big opportunity here to inspire engineers of the future to get into renewables and make Norfolk a hub for excellence through institutions like UTC Norfolk.”

Pictured: Year 12 students from UTC Norfolk working on their plans for a wind farm development, which they presented to representatives from Vattenfall and 3DW as part of the core project. (Images courtesy of Vattenfall).